[Road to Wellness] Onward and Upward, Weeks 5 and 6

Well, gang, we've put in a full month of trying to live a well-rounded, healthier life. Mr. Gunter and I are still (pretty) hard at it. He's discovered a new addiction: honey-roasted soy nuts. I found them at the Jitney 14 (Winn Dixie) in the produce section, and I can't seem to keep him away from them. I'm admittedly not doing as well on the walking lately, but I promise to pick it back up if all y'all do, too. So without any further ado … onward and upward.

Week Five:
• Exercise: We should all be walking 30 minutes three times a week by now. Let's add another day. Thirty minutes of heart pumpin' action, four times a week. Pretend you're a marathon walker. You've seen them on TV. Don't worry if people look at you funny. You should have also started an exercise class (if you don't have the money for a class, you bought a video or a book, or checked one out of the library). Go at least twice this week; funky friends and outfits make these classes more tolerable. And make sure you're doing regular yoga stretches, whether in class or at home.

• Diet: I want to talk a little more about soy. With so many different varieties of soy products now, getting two servings a day is easy. Choose from several good energy bars on the market (watch for all natural and low-fat), and those roasted nuts are good for munching. You may be wondering why I'm harping on the soy. Well, women in the Far East, with their soy-heavy diets, don't get breast cancer. The men don't get prostate cancer. When they move to the States, their risks increase; researchers say it's because our diets are so low in soy products. Soy also is said to help relieve the symptoms of menopause, may prevent osteoporosis and reduces the effect of free radicals (cancer-causing bad guys) in our systems. So, if you were afraid of the soy before, maybe all of this will change your mind.

A good way to get your soy, by the way, and the low-fat yogurt that women need for those all-important acidophilus cultures (don't ask), and your several servings of fruit a day is to throw it all in a blender together with some soy protein powder and soy milk for a yummy smoothie. It'll fill you up, and they're delicious. Throw in some blood oranges and ripe mango meat (organic available at Rainbow), and blend away. Your smoothie can be different every day; just don't use yogurt with artificial junk or Nutrasweet. A smoothie a day may well keep the doc away. (And with today's health-care prices …)

Also try some fresh ginger, the little pink flakes they bring with your sushi. It's great for upset stomachs and aids digestion. Candied ginger is indeed like candy.

• Create: Go out and buy a special pen and notebook. We're starting a journal. Try to write in it for 10 minutes every day. Write "expressively"; don't worry about grammar, spelling or punctuation. (Lord knows I don't.) Just get your feelings on the page. Remind yourself who you are. It makes me feel like a teenager again to just pour out all my angst and joy onto an unmarked page. Doodle in the margins. Make a "grateful" list. Write lists of your favorite songs. Who do you think is cute? Plan what you're wearing for New Year's Eve. Who cares what you write? Just write.

• Boundaries: Try going on a TV fast one full day this week. You can pick the day, but I suggest a day that you're off work. Go to the library or bookstore and find something better to occupy your mind. Wander into sections you've never been in before. Check out the first editions at Lemuria or Choctaw's Mississippi shelves.

One day this week put everyone you meet before you. Open doors like a bellhop. Wave everyone ahead at a busy intersection; lay off the horn. Sit back and relax on the way to work. Pretend like your car only goes 10 miles an hour. Practice your breathing.

Week Six:
• Exercise: Keep on walking. See if the gym you joined has a personal trainer and schedule a consultation. Often, it's included in the cost of membership.

• Diet: Try just eating fruits and vegetables (a "fast") for one day. Scared? Don't be. I think you'll find that it's actually very filling and fulfilling. And, you'll rid your body of many toxins. (To further detoxify, pop into your gym's sauna or a steamy bath and rub down afterward with a few drops of lavender or eucalyptus in a good body oil.)

Next time you're at the grocery store, only shop on the perimeters of the store. The healthiest products are available there: produce, low-fat yogurt, whole-grain breads, dried fruit, salmon if you eat fish. You can go back on the inside later. But, after you've tried a healthier approach to eating, I doubt you'll want to go back. You're already putting down healthy amounts of broccoli; now pick up some greens. Collard, mustard, kale, spinach, whatever. Find a way to put them with a meal this week. The Japanese eat greens with every meal and look how healthy they are. If you're a fast-food hound, promise yourself not to drive through anywhere until we're done with our 12 weeks. Better yet, swear off fast-food chains forever as Stephen our account manager did a few months back.

• Create: Continue with your journal. Increase the time you spend with it to 15 minutes a day. Buy some more art supplies (Walgreen's has fun, cheap stuff or steal some from your kids). Make cards for everyone you know and mail them (even if they live in the same house).

• Boundaries: Get a pen pal. Pick a relative or friend who lives out of town, even if it's only Vicksburg. We lost an art with the advent of the telephone and computer. Write at least one letter this week. I'm not talking about e-mail. I'm talking about a real letter, with stamps and S.W.A.K. (Sealed With A Kiss) on the back, if that's your thing. When they write back, and they will, you can look forward to something besides bills in the mailbox. And that will feel good.

Note that these wellness tips are gleaned from a variety of respected sources, and in no way take the place of consulting a good doctor about any health concerns you may have.

— by J. Bingo Holman, Aug. 7, 2003


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